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During my high school teaching I would sometimes begin a unit of study with a freewheeling debate about a topic. The discussions were always lively. Students were excited to express their opinions, though they had little substantive knowledge about the subject. At some point during the proceedings, I would cut off the chatter so we […]
Although we’re in the middle of a particularly cold winter, with below zero temps and copious snowfall, I can think of a few things that aren’t so bad. Good Food Preview Open
One recent Supreme Court case that has attracted much divisive commentary in both the legal and popular press is Kennedy v. Bremerton School District (2022). There, a divided court held that Joseph Kennedy, who served as a football coach at Bremerton High School, could not be removed from his position because of his practice of engaging in a half-minute moment of personal prayer at the conclusion of varsity football games. Notably, these prayers occurred when Kennedy was on a short break from his official duties. That, at least, is the story told by Justice Neil Gorsuch for the majority. Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent paints a very different picture, in which Coach Kennedy was a Pied Piper who lured students from both his own team and that of its opponents to participate in a showy demonstration of Christian faith.
The evident differences in these two capsule summaries matter when it comes to fixing the troubled constitutional line between church and state. The text of the First Amendment sets up the problem: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” These two short clauses on free exercise and establishment have always been in deep tension. On Gorsuch’s view of the facts, it looks as though a boorish school district trampled the exercise of religious freedom by its own teachers and students. By contrast, the Sotomayor view points to an establishment of religion by the public acts of a single teacher.
In this instance, Gorsuch used his version of the facts not only to vindicate Coach Kennedy but also to put the final nail in the coffin of the highly controversial three-part Establishment Clause test in Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971), used to strike down two statutory programs whereby Pennsylvania and Rhode Island provided financial aid to religious schools to reimburse the costs of teachers’ salaries and textbooks in designated “secular” subjects. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger insisted that under the Constitution, “[f]irst, [any] statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; finally, the statute must not foster ‘an excessive government entanglement with religion.’ ” The entanglement prong proved fatal to both state statutes.
The End of a Personal Era
We went to church Sunday morning. It actually looks very much like this one, except smaller.
It’s kind of a big deal. Ever since my husband and I decided to trade places putting him in the mode of Mr. Mom at home with our daughter while I go out and almost ruin my life chasing corporate fame and fortune, I’ve felt like a fish out of water at church. Shortly after the switch in roles, we adopted a baby born to a Guatemalan immigrant who’d been raped multiple times on the journey from her home country to the Texas border. The baby had had her own rocky journey, defying the threat of abortion through her protective and frightened mother, and then emerging quite strong albeit missing most of her brain’s left hemisphere.
July 2, 2011 (First two installments here and here.) These are doozies. Preview Open
June 21, 2011 Originally, the title was “Top Five Kid Distractions,” but since I finished the last entry with two, I realized I had several more to go. Anyway, perhaps my girls are the diversion and this is a phenomenon that can’t be quantified. Preview Open
June 5, 2011 First off, ours is a kid-filled church, so let me clarify that I am talking about my own children. Other, younger children some distance away do not divert my attention nearly as much as my nine and eleven-year-old nestled on either side of me. Preview Open
“Tolerance” is a doctrine. In theology or education or everyday life, “doctrine” is ever present. Everyone has doctrine since everyone has beliefs. We subscribe to a teaching, dogma, or creed to explain what we believe. Our commitment to that set of teachings limits our acceptance of contrary or adversarial claims. It does not matter if you are a feminist, committed to LGBTQ+, a Baptist preacher, or a conservative talk show host; you have doctrine. Everyone everywhere has doctrine. But in our current cultural moment, identity, ethnic, sexual, and gender politics demand our belief in the doctrine of tolerance.
I will use the metaphors of religious ideas and icons to communicate the cultural doctrine of “tolerance.” First, toleration demands “understanding,” then “acceptance,” then “allegiance,” then “obeisance,” then “conformity,” and ultimately “evangelism.” The ordered steps down the cathedral aisle do not matter as much as the baptismal outcome. Hollywood’s hymnal sings both obvious and subtle references to accepted and rejected points of view. Celebrities must bow before the altar of imposed speech codes. News outlets preach from their pulpits against the latest outrage. The plight of those suffering worldwide is reported only if their deaths reinforce the common book of party prayer. Catechismal teaching reinforces the moment-by-moment commitment to membership in the church of toleration. Excommunication is swift for any who would sin against accepted authority. Reputational ruin comes to anyone daring to cross the received cultural commandments. Toleration’s heaven accepts the culturally righteous who are the tolerant saints wearing white robes of social purity. Toleration’s hell awaits anyone who has rejected salvation offered by the cultural gods of the day.
Let me be perfectly clear. I am tolerant, kind, generous, respectful, and gracious to people, no matter who they are or what they believe. But I will always speak out against ideas — the doctrine of tolerance included — that stand against the doctrines of God’s word.
Though barely mentioned in US media, 48 Christian churches in Canada have been vandalized or burned down in the past two months. The latest occurred Monday, when the St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Surrey, British Colombia, was destroyed by fire.
Since mid-June, five B.C. churches were set alight, apparently connected to unmarked graves discovered at former residential school sites. The schools were instituted in 1874 as an effort to assimilate native tribes in language, religion, and culture. First Nations children were removed from their families and often moved great distances into the boarding schools. The program officially ended in 1969.
No evidence has shown if the deaths came from natural causes or intentional abuse but most of the Canadian press has presumed the latter. Since the Catholic Church ran 70 percent of these schools, it has borne most of the current backlash. But it didn’t take long for arsonists and vandals to attack churches far from First Nations reserves and unrelated to Catholicism.
I’ve been steeped in research, gathering photos, matching likenesses to known persons profiled on Wikipedia, and reviewing maps and dates, all the while praying my mind would eventually wrap itself around the largesse of the story, at least to the point I might tell a story that has coherence, drama, a proper arc, and an […]
Exploring our parks and library, making new friends, and gearing up for the big move-in day. (Read Part I here, Part II here, and Part III here, Part IV here, Part V here, Part VI here, and Part VII here.) A view from Jewel Basin hiking area. Preview Open
My first spiritual mentor was a recent seminary graduate serving as the youth pastor of my first church. He spent a lot of time with our little youth ministry team teaching us how to study scripture, introducing us to the great classics, and challenging us with intellectually difficult homework assignments.
He had an affair with one of the high school counselors.
He was out.
Pastor Ché Ahn and Attorney Mathew Staver joined Senior Editor Christopher Bedford to discuss their recent lawsuit against California Gov. Gavin Newsom for his actions in banning religious worship amid the ongoing government lockdown. Ahn is the founder and head pastor at Harvest International Ministry and Harvest Rock Church, and Staver is a founding member of Liberty Counsel.
Ahn argued Gov. Newsom imposed a double standard in shutting down religious services while praising the reckless protests and looting that ensued following the death of George Floyd, despite their lack of compliance with CDC guidelines. Staver said the Constitution makes it clear the government cannot prevent citizens from gathering to worship.
As if the country did not have enough problems with Big Tech including Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Along comes Churchix. Churchix provides facial recognition software for churches. Now your local cult will know who attends and who does not attend those church services to bring their all-important money to the collection plate. Don’t believe […]
“Think Globally, Act Locally.” That is a phrase you will sometimes hear from activists. The point is a valid one. You want to change the world? That’s great but the world won’t change on your say so. What you can do is change your household, your neighborhood, your town, and if enough other people do […]
No churches with their glowing stained glass windows, no murals, no paintings of Christ with the children, no depictions of Mary being touched by God—all these will disappear if Shaun King has his way. He told his 1.1 million followers that all images of a white Jesus and his ‘European’ mother should be destroyed. White Jesus is a symbol of ‘white supremacy,’ and has been used over the centuries to oppress anyone not white.
How many of his followers will take his pronouncement and follow through with destroying churches, statues of Jesus and Mary, paintings, etc.? Should armed guards be stationed 24/7 to protect “The Last Supper?” What about the statue of Mary and Jesus, “The Pieta?” Wasn’t there an attempt years ago to damage that? How many paintings and murals with a white Jesus also show people of other races? In many of those, Jesus is seated among the people. Would an oppressor feel comfortable enough to sit with those he is supposedly oppressing?
Reading and watching the news with bemused dismay as government officials, be they town, county, or state, try to lock down people from celebrating Easter, or attending any religious service, I proposed a partial theory to Mr. C. Because people are not out driving as much, the police aren’t able to issue traffic tickets, which […]
I think everyone must have their own “never say never” story, and this is mine.
I have been involved with my church’s 20s/30s singles group for quite a few years now, and something we’ve done for a long time is discipleship groups (or d-groups). These are small gender-specific groups that meet during the week, usually at someone’s house, for deeper fellowship and Bible study. I really enjoy d-groups and signed up for one right away. But after I had been a member of a d-group a couple of times, our leader, Kelly, started asking me to think about leading or co-leading one.
I don’t know if this is a specifically Christian practice or if people who aren’t Christians do something similar, too, but it’s become a Thing in my church community to choose a “word” for the year. This is usually an area where we want to see God grow us, something to pray about and focus on as the months continue. Now, I realize that the way I’ve written this paragraph kind of sounds like I’m being critical about having a prayer word (as some call it, including myself), but I actually love the idea.
This year isn’t the first time I’ve had a prayer word. Last year my word started out as “maturity,” but then about a month in, it changed to “abide” and remained that way for the rest of the year. I had a Scripture passage to go with it (John 15:1-11), which I memorized and reviewed once a week. It was the right word for me for that time, and I did, praise Jesus, see some growth in my abiding in Christ.